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Tribe Baseball Relying on Depth
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer
2023-03-08

            With an experienced roster and new District One classification, Upper Perkiomen's baseball team has its eye on post-season success. The key might be surviving the Pioneer Athletic Conference.

Topher Burns fields a ground ball Monday during the 

first day of Upper Perkiomen's baseball practice.  Drew

Graf, Cole Pierce, and Sammy Zematis wait in line.

            The conference features at least five hard-throwing pitchers who have garnered attention from Division I and Division II college coaches and Owen J. Roberts, the defending District One Class 6A champions.

            Mercon expressed hope that the recent success of the Upper Perk Youth Legion team will benefit his team. Several who advanced to the state title game last summer will play integral roles for the Tribe. The Braves reached the final day of the state tournament the year before.

            A majority of those consider baseball their No. 1 sport, said the coach. Attendance at pre-season workouts, held three days a week since January, has hovered around 30.  "They are a dedicated group," Mercon said. "They made a commitment to the game."

            Steady attendance to an offseason weightlifting program, held at the high school since September, has allowed numerous players to transform their bodies, noted Mercon. He said the increased strength should materialize on the field.

            The Indians, who open their season with four non-league games against opponents from Berks County, return all but two starters and three players from the squad that ended up just one game under .500. The coach identified Evan Wittig and Aidan Keyser as their top two pitchers.

            Wittig, a senior left-hander who tossed a perfect game in his first outing last season, earned first-team All-Frontier Division honors. Keyser, a junior who grew two inches over the winter, is up to 6'3.

            "Evan's body has really matured," said Mercon, who identified 12 pitchers good enough to receive meaningful innings.

            Senior catcher Devlin Kranich, a three-year starter and junior infielders Andrew Graf and Braden Rieg are the Tribe's top returning position players. The trio each earned second-team honors while helping UP post a 9-11 overall record, including 6-10 in the PAC.

            The coach said he expects a core of juniors, including Kyle Massie, Isaac Bugman, Evan Sands, Owen Williams, Cole Pierce, Gavin Weiss and Jack Schramm to take a "giant step forward." Graff will start at third base, while Rieg returns to first base.

            The infield defense should be strong up the middle with Sands and Bugman. Ian Ferrero should see some time at second base or shortstop. Tyler Forrest and Peyton Borchelt should line up in the outfield.

            "We should have a deep lineup," said Mercon whose team debuts March 21 on the road against Schuylkill Valley before returning home for consecutive home games against Oley Valley (March 23) and Brandywine Heights (March 24).  "I don't think we're going to have any easy outs."

            The Tribe has been reassigned to the District One Class 4A playoffs. The team will compete against, Collegium Charter, Holy Ghost Prep, Lower Moreland, Springfield (Montco), Bishop Shanahan and conference rival Pope John Paul II for a playoff berth. The top four teams will likely qualify.


 

 

 

 

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